June 2, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Mike Martin has had plenty of practice when it comes to the NCAA Regional pre-tournament press conference. Not surprisingly, Florida State’s veteran coach was in top form for Thursday’s prelude to the Tallahassee Regional – his 32nd consecutive at the helm of the Seminoles.
Florida State (42-17), the No. 5 national seed, meets Bethune-Cookman (36-23) in the Friday 6 p.m. game at Dick Howser Stadium. UCF (38-21), the second-seeded team in the regional field, meets Alabama (33-26) at 12 noon in the first game of the double-elimination tournament.
“I look at all of these coaches and none of them are new to this postseason stuff,” Martin cracked. “I don’t like that. Where is Central Connecticut State?”
Unlike Central Connecticut State, FSU’s opening-game opponent last season in the Norwich (Conn.) Regional, UCF, Alabama and Bethune-Cookman are tournament-tested. In fact, each of the three have made multiple NCAA Regional appearances at Florida State.
The Seminoles will send junior Hunter Scantling to the mound to face the Wildcats, who are coming off a perfect 18-0 mark in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play and a sixth consecutive league title. B-CU coach Mervyl Melendez has not announced his starter, but it will either be sophomore right-hander Gabriel Hernandez or freshman right-hander Scott Garner.
“We know … that we’re not facing [All-American, Sean] Gilmartin,” said Melendez. “That’s got to be a positive side for us. Hopefully our guys will get excited that they will not be facing Gilmartin and maybe they’ll feel that they are being taken a little bit lightly.”
That would seem unlikely given the last meeting between the schools, which came in the opening game of the 2007 Tallahassee Regional. The Wildcats carried a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning before Buster Posey unloaded a go-ahead homer and the Seminoles prevailed 6-2.
“What I remember is that we played nine innings and we were ahead in the sixth or seventh inning,” Melendez said.
“If it wasn’t for [Buster] Posey we’re in the loser’s bracket a couple years ago,” Martin added. “They’ve got a heckuva club.”
FSU holds a 4-0 all-time record against the Wildcats, with all four previous meetings coming in regional play.
The Seminoles and Wildcats have each endured a number of challenges to get to this point. Martin’s club withstood an early-season run of four consecutive extra-inning losses before breaking that streak with an extra-inning victory.
Martin called it, “the most challenging week” in his 32 seasons.
“We grew from it… We did find out a lot about our club during that period of time.”
FSU also overcame the two-week absence of senior co-captain Stuart Tapley and a late-season injury to leadoff hitter and second baseman Devon Travis.
“I think really helped us as we were really striving to be a top-eight seed,” Martin said. “All of start out wanting to do one thing – that’s get to Omaha. You know by being a top-eight seed you have an advantage playing at home, but at the same time, you better play well – especially with what’s in here right now.”
Melendez, who has taking his team to a 10th regional appearance in 12 years, doesn’t expect his veteran team to be awed by the experience or the competition.
“We’ve got to do a good job between the lines and the guys have got to perform,” said Melendez.
Friday’s FSU regional opener will be streamed live at no charge via Seminoles.com. Any game involving Florida State Saturday-Monday will be televised by either SunSports or Fox Sports Florida. Visit the Tournament Central page at Seminoles.com for more details.